Day Three — Early Birds Get The Sushi
6:00 AM – Wake up and blog Day 2
6:10 AM – MORNING MEET UP
After a good night’s sleep, we all meet up in the hotel lobby, say our good mornings, catch up on what we all did for dinner the night before and make sure everyone going is present. Sam – our JASGP Assistant Director, and today our guide is taking us to a place where the freshest of fish are bought, sold, and prepared. The only way it could be any fresher, is if you dove in the ocean and took a bite out of the fish while it’s still swimming. I’m talking about none other than the one and only Tsukiji Fish Market.
Below is the train schedule to Tsukiji Fish Market
6:30 AM – AKASAKAMITSUKE TO KASUMIGASEKI
6:40 AM – KASUMIGASEKI TO TSUKIJI (Red Line)
6:50 AM – TSUKIJI FISH MARKET (Grey Line)
7:00 AM – AT THE ENTRANCE OF TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
There are many fish markets around the world, but Tsukiji Fish Market is known the world over for having not only the freshest, but the most in variety as well. With over 400 different species in just the warehouse portion of the building alone makes it unique from every other market.
One thing that you’ll notice is that business happens at a speed that would make your head spin. It is also one of the busiest on the planet too. There are these little gas powered trolleys that the workers zip around on, and turn down to little narrow isles as they pick up and drop off various of seafoods. Now, one would think that in a place like this, that it would smell bad, or have that “fishy” smell. But what people who really know how to shop for fish, as well any fisherman, that fresh fish has no smell to it. It’s THAT fresh. My brother and I personally witnessed a fisherman making filets of Red Snapper. The fish was still alive, and flipping about madly. And with one poke through where it’s gills are, and one chop just before the tail fin, the flipping stopped.
Me being me, I’ve been using my Japanese as much as I possible while I’ve been here. And today was going to be no different. We were walking around and taking photos and I decided to say good morning to the fisherman in the above photo. The following conversation actually happened.
“Ohayo gozaimasu!” my brother and I said to an older fisherman.
“Ahhh… Ohayo gozaimasu!” the fisherman replied.
“Gakusei desu ka?” asked the fisherman. This is “Are you a student?” in Japanese.
“Iie, chigaimasu…” I answered which is “No, that’s not right.” “Nihon hajimete desu.” which is “This is my first time to Japan”.
“Oh! Daijobu desu ka?” the fisherman asks, which is basically “Oh! Everything alright?”
“Sugoi sugoi! Nihon no totemo utsukushii desu yo!” I answer which is “Awesome! Wonderful! Japan is very beautiful!”.
I then introduce ourselves:
“Kochira wa ototo desu, Michael, to watashi wa, Brian desu. Anata onamae wa?” which is “This is my younger brother (ototo), and I am (watashi wa), and your name is? (anata onamae wa).
He smiled, and answered:
“Watashi wa Guchii desu. Hajimemashite.” which is “My name is Guchii. Pleased to meet you.”
Now, at this point, I’m sure Guchii thinks I’m somewhat fluent in Japanese, and basically asks me where I’m from, but not in a way I’m familiar with, and with such speed that I didn’t grasp hardly anything he had said. But, my brother who had picked up the word shushiin which means “hometown” figured out that this is what he was asking.
“Ah! Philadelphia.” I reported to Guchii. Guchii thought for a moment, and then responded with…
“Iie, “ I answer shaking my head no and proceed to break down the city name, so he can piece it together for himself.
“Phee-ra-de-bi-ah” I say to see if he has got it.
After some thought, he smiles and says the most unexpected of things.
“Ah! World Series Champions! Omedetto!” blurts Guchii with a big smile on his face, and we all laugh and my brother and I nodded repeatedly to show that he was correct. We shook hands, bowed, and he asked that we have a good time while we are here. We let him get back to work, walking away a happier, yet more inquisitive twosome.
This goes to show two things:
One. Other countries know more about us than we do about them or even ourselves.
Two. If you make the effort to speak the language of the country your in, the more help you’ll be able to obtain when you need it most.
We left the fish market, and went to find a good place to get breakfast, Japanese-style. We were enticed by one of the many people who were outside waving people to their establishments and ended up having an experience that not many people in the US get to experience: The world’s freshest sushi.
Now, for those who think sushi is just raw fish, you’d only be party correct. It’s actually steamed to clean the fish or seafood of bacterial things before you – the customer – ever sees it. THEN, it’s ready for mass consumption. Anyhow we go in, sit down and have enough sushi that the final bill total back home would almost be $100, easy. It only cost us about $20. No joke.
Now, this isn’t any of the crazy stuff you hear about, but what makes the difference in what you’re seeing in the above photo and the sushi you’ve had, is that this was killed THIS morning. As was the unagi (which is Japanese for Eel) Michael had shared with me. In the top half of the wooden plate (I have GOT to get a set of these!), in the upper left is ginger, used to clean and clear the palette before the next piece, or after all of the food is consumed. Next to that are two pieces of crab (kani [kah-knee] in Japanese). On the bottom row, is ebi (shrimp [eh-bee]) This isn’t something that most people eat for breakfast, outside of Japan (from my understanding). But, this was definitely filling.
Outside, I told the gentleman who had coerced us in, in Japanese:
“Gochisosama desu! Nihon gyori wa monosugoku oishii desu yo! Anata no gyori daisuke desu!”
“Thank you for the meal! Japanese food is unbelievably delicious! I love your food!”
I really should have taken a picture of his face after him hearing me say that. He asked if I was with the US Army, or if I was a student (gakusei [gahk-say]), and to both I replied “no”, and when I told him I was teaching myself Japanese, he was quite surprised, and proceeded to tell me that I sounded like someone who had been living here, and that my accent, and pronunciation was excellent. This is the assurance I need to continue my study of Japanese.
12:00 PM – MEETING SHAUN & SACHIKO
Those who have an Apple Macintosh computer, may have heard of the iSight webcam that Apple made about 5 years ago. The resolution and the output on the iSight outperformed (at that time) all the other webcams on the market. When I had gotten mine (two days after it’s release), I put my name up on a website called “iChatFinder.com”. where people who had bought the camera were going to meet others to see if the “ultimate in videoconferencing” was truly here.
And once again, Apple got it right.
Two days after I had gotten my iSight, I had gotten an IM from someone named “hoorayharry”, and he was asking if I wanted to accept a video chat. I clicked the “Accept” button, and began video chatting with someone whom I had never met. He told me his name, and I had told him mine, and we began discussing everything under the sun. Now, due to his British accent, I figured he was in Merry Ol’ England. Imagine my surprise when he tells me:
“Oh no, mate… I’m in Japan!” he replies chuckling.
That was five years ago.
And today, we finally meet.
Shaun and I have formed a great friendship, thanks to Apple. I know that sounds like an ad, but it is really true. If it hadn’t been for the iSight web camera, I wouldn’t have posted on iChatFinder.com, and Shaun and I would have never have met. My first time glimpses of Shaun’s wife Sachiko were when Shaun and I were talking and I would see her slide past in the background, and even then I only saw her lower legs! One day I said “konnbanwa” while she was walking past, and she froze. From then on, she would say “hello” when she saw Shaun talking to me online.
So when I heard about the trip to Japan, I was so excited. Not only will I get to see a country I’ve always wanted to see, but I’ll finally get to see the friend I made over the Internet. Now Shaun lives in Yokohama, and we agreed to meet up so we could see the sights. And see them, we did!
1:30 PM – YOKOHAMA
I tell you… this is one amazing city. Even though I had to transfer twice to get there, the trip is well worth it. Especially if the view is like this! This photo was taken from Landmark Tower, which is one place you should visit while you’re in Japan. The view from the observation deck is ridiculous. You can see the curvature of the Earth from here!
Shaun, Sachiko, Michael and I spent the rest of the day together and we got to go on a night boat ride out in the ocean and got to see how pretty Yokohama is at night. See below.
This is one of those photos that you hope you take. I think I’m going to get this one framed.
Shaun and Sachiko took us to this place that does what you would call a “batter-dip-on-a-stick” of various foods. They started off with a few vegetables, then to the meats (pork, beef, chicken), then to the seafood, and some more vegetables (like asparagus), but I had to stop when it came to the quail’s egg. From what Shaun and Sachiko were saying, that these kind of places never really took off, but this one was the most popular. After dinner we went right across the street, and Shaun had a pint of Guinness, and I had a Ginger Ale. I don’t remember what Mike and Sachiko had.
After discussing many political things, and the state of the Internet as it is in Japan, and how it is back home, they took us for a walk in an open air mall. There were quite a lot of young people about, playing music for change, and selling demo CDs of their songs, there were trendy clothes shops open with all kinds of really wicked gear. Well, it was getting late, and the trains don’t run all night in Tokyo. We had to catch our trains back to Akasaka, and our hotel room. We said our goodbyes, and we assured Shaun and Sachiko that we would be back to see them.
10:00 PM – TIME TO SAY GOOD NIGHT
As he headed back towards Akasaka, Mike and I discussed the great day we had, and that we are going to need to come back, just to do some of the things we knew we wouldn’t get to do because of the time constraints. Well, that’s okay. We have a better reason when we come back to do all the things we didn’t get to, so it’s not a loss.